31 January 2013

Homemakers and disaster survival

I think homemakers could play a vital part in helping people survive a disaster. When disaster strikes, homemakers, mothers, fathers and carers come to the fore. We are not among those running to the supermarket to stock up when the conditions are dangerous and cash registers and ATMs are not working. We rely on our stockpiles or our well-stocked pantries instead. We've already cleared the toys and gardening tools from the backyard before the storm hits, and without being told to do it. Homemakers think, we're used to doing all these things, we know our homes inside out - we know how they work, we know the dangers lurking, and where the torches and candles are. We know it's vital to conserve energy and water, we have our refilled water bottles ready, a couple of different ways to prepare food as well as food that can be eaten cold or raw. We'll be able to keep everyone fed. When you know how to feed one family, you know what's needed to feed a neighbourhood. 

Our main jobs in disaster relief could be to help people prepare as much as they can and maybe even to help resettle the home when the disaster is over. The SES, police, the military, public servants, transport and electricity and water authorities, they can get on with it during the disaster, we would carry out the important task of getting homes set up to help everyone get through the crisis in their home, if emergency evacuations were not necessary.

We have to stop thinking about disasters as something that will never happen to us, and have emergency awareness and preparation as part of what we grow up learning about. If we continue to believe we'll never be involved in a catastrophe, when we are, we're not only unprepared, we're scared because we don't know what to do. If we plan for disasters and know how to respond, how to help not only ourselves and our families, but neighbours and the elderly too, we'll be ready for most things that could happen.

When you think about the skills most homemakers have, it seems to me that many of them would be ready for most emergencies. We are already set up for survival. We don't need anyone to hold our hand because the shops are closed, there is no power and the phones don't work. We have our homes set up for the production of food, bread, soap etc. Most of us could make an oil lamp or candles if they were needed. Most of us could stretch a meal for four to feed eight.  If we're prepared for all this and remain calm, it will increase everyone's changes of survival.

Our home management journals should contain a disaster survival plan. You can find Australian information here for a variety of emergency situations - before, during and after. No matter where you are in the world, Google information about your local procedures, it's different in every country and the information you need in your town may be different to that in the next town. Find out. Phone your local authorities and ask about disaster plans for floods, fires, earthquakes etc. Work out a safe evacuation route that will take you to a safe area or your local muster point. Print out the map, mark out a couple of different routes and discuss it with everyone in your family. Small children and the elderly may need to practise leaving the house and going directly to a designated area.

My job during a disaster (I created this job for myself) would be to find all the people driving and walking through swollen creeks and rivers, along with those who swim, surf and jet ski (or light fires) just for the fun of it and frogmarch them into an area where they'd get a clip in the ear and told to smarten themselves up. Then they'd be dispatched to work with the SES for the duration of the disaster. I'd be good at that.

The above is only slightly tongue in cheek.

I would love to see short disaster preparation courses set up in our communities - Preparing your family and home for a disaster. They could be run by any homemaker worthy of the title, in conjunction with the emergency authorities. They could co-incide with community classes on life skills, cooking from scratch, preserving, mending, sewing, baking, fermenting etc. I would like our governments to realise that as catastrophic climate events become more common, and that is the prediction, we need to develop the mindset to survive them, and for that to become part of our common knowledge. The disaster preparation alone only addresses part of the problem. The other problem, cutting down on our greenhouse emissions, will begin to be addressed, in part, when many more people bring production of common household goods back to their homes again - the life skills classes. We need to know more than how to shop for what we need.

What's happening in your neighbourhood? Are you as prepared as you'd like to be?

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